Web giants unite to fight online hate

By Marcus Dysch, September 23, 2014

Internet giants Twitter, Facebook, Google and Microsoft have pledged to work harder to tackle online hatred after agreeing a deal with a leading antisemitism watchdog.

The companies endorsed a series of pledges on Monday following talks in California with the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism.

Described by one insider as a "game-changing" development, the agreement will see the companies increase efforts to stop the proliferation of racist and abusive comments on their sites.

The technology firms are all members of the ICCA's working group on cyber hate. The Anti-Defamation League is a co-convenor of the group. The taskforce has been leading collaborative efforts with politicians, lawyers and the business world to force racism and hatred from the web.

Under the agreement, the companies have committed to introduce more user-friendly reporting systems, and will respond quicker to allegations of abuse. They will also enforce tougher sanctions against those who post abusive messages.

Digital help

An IT professional with over 30 years experience has launched an initiative to fight antisemitism and anti-Israel activity on social media.
The DJ First scheme offers free training courses for members of the community on how to use social networks like Twitter.
Gary Simon, who set up the project, explained that social media could be harnessed as a weapon against antisemitism but the community was suffering from a knowledge gap in the area.

More work will now take place between the companies to develop further ideas on tackling online hate speech and create educational materials.

An ICCA spokeswoman in London said: "This is very significant. It's the first time solutions have been found. If we have the big players then the others will follow. It's not too much to say it's a game-changer."

British members of the working group travelled to Los Angeles last week to strike the deal. Labour MP John Mann joined Superintendent Paul Giannasi, of the Ministry of Justice's Hate Crime Unit, and Mike Whine of the Community Security Trust, in California.

Mr Mann, ICAA chair, said: "We welcome this development and will continue to work with the industry, governments and parliaments to implement these best practices and work against the spread of hatred on the internet."

Mr Whine said: "The internet has facilitated and encouraged the spread of hate speech. The impact is of mounting concern to governments, their criminal justice agencies and civil society alike.

"These new agreed best practices are a significant step forward. They follow five meetings in Silicon Valley which CST helped prepare and facilitate."

Last updated: 7:29pm, September 23 2014